The UK is today announcing plans to reform how people can change their legal gender on their birth certificate.
They are launching a new 16-week consultation aiming to make the process ‘less intrusive and bureaucratic’ for trans people in England and Wales.
But it comes after over a year of delays to reform of the Gender Recognition Act.
Trans activists are cautiously welcoming the news today, but with the caveat that it should be used as an opportunity to extend rights to non-binary people too.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has issued a statement on the announcement. ‘Last year I committed to carrying out a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act,’ she said. ‘I’m pleased to be able to launch that today.
‘What was very clear from our survey is that transgender people across the UK find the process of legally changing their gender overly bureaucratic and invasive.
‘I want to see a process that is more streamlined and de-medicalized – because being trans should never be treated as an illness.’
What will the new consultation look at?
The government is also aiming to ‘gather evidence to further advance equality for non-binary and intersex people.’
The public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 follows an open letter sent by a coalition of trans activists, LGBTI organizations and human rights groups to Penny Mordaunt, the latest minister for Women and Equalities, in May.
They’ll be looking at whether they should change the process of obtaining legal recognition from this:
- Provide two medical reports, one showing a diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ and the other outlining details of treatment received;
- Obtain the consent of their spouse if they are married;
- Demonstrate that they have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years;
- Pay £140 [$184, €158].
And instead, ask trans people how getting a new birth certificate can be less intrusive and bureaucratic.
They have already confirmed the plans ‘will not water down Equality Act protections for single-sex services or for trans people.’
Struck by over a year of delays
Today’s consultation follows a year of delays following a number of changeovers in the Women and Equalities role.
It was deprioritized by Justine Greening in December last year after she promised it would happen in the autumn of 2017.
However, Home Secretary Amber Rudd took over the portfolio from Greening after a government reshuffle. Her resignation following the Windrush immigration scandal was the latest blow to the consultation.
But today, the new minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mourdant has launched this new consultation.
Mourdant says: ‘The discrimination and bigotry that the trans community currently faces is unacceptable. We need a culture change.
‘We want to help people to thrive and to go about their daily life, living in the gender they choose without intrusion or fear of humiliation. This consultation is a chance for us to change the current system for the better.’
It comes on the same day the UK confirmed it will look at legislating to ban gay cure therapy, after months of rumors.
They made this announcement as part of a 75 point action plan for LGBTI people that the accompanying report said were the most underserved part of the community.
‘No surprises here whatsoever’
Reacting to the announcement, journalist and campaigner Jane Fae told Gay Star News: ‘No surprises here whatsoever. The government said it would have a consultation on updating the Gender Recognition Act, and it has now announced it will do so.
Fae blames a mixture of Brexit and the multiple changeovers in the role for the delay. She also wants to know more about the process.
‘Can we have a right to appeal? Can we get to attend a gender recognition panel? And, critically, can we move the process away from one of ticking medical boxes to a grown-up system in which people affirm their gender within a clearcut legal framework, such as courts.’
Fae also says this is an opportunity for the government to ‘finally’ recognize non-binary genders.
‘We are well beyond time for that, and this consultation would be a good place to begin that process. My fear is that this will turn out to be too big an issue to solve during this consultation.’
‘We hope that the media will behave responsibly in further reporting on this issue’
Also responding to the news was Jennie Kermode – Chair of the charity Trans Media Watch – who told Gay Star News: ‘We welcome the arrival of this long-awaited consultation. And the assurance of further work to be done on non-binary and intersex rights.
‘We trust that the government will concern itself only with concerns based on fact. And not with myths in the media about what GRA reform would mean.’
Kermode furthermore adds: ’We hope that the media will behave responsibly in further reporting on this issue. Misleading claims can put trans people at risk. They create unnecessary fear among people who are unfamiliar with the law and how it works in practice.’